Prayer Time Shouldn’t Be a Rare Time—Helping Kids Grow in Their Prayer Life through Prayer Posters

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This month HiSKidZ at our church are learning about prayer. It seems that while we pray a lot, we haven’t done the best job of teaching about prayer, and since even the disciples asked Jesus how to pray, it’s something we should be giving some thought to as we disciple our children in their faith walks with God.

We are loosely using Discpletown’s How to Pray curriculum and tweaking it to fit our own format and structure. Each week this month we are looking at different aspects of prayer connected to the word pray—Praise, Repentance, Asking and Yielding. It’s nothing new, but it’s definitely worth bringing out to a new generation to help them grow in their conversations with the Lord.

This week, HiSKidZ in our Discovery/Sunday School hour will be making these prayer posters to help them understand each of the 4 aspects of prayer that we are teaching.

The idea is so simple.

All you need is four envelopes, a piece of poster board, some tape, some markers or crayons, a hole punch and a piece of yarn.

Tape the envelopes to the poster board. On each one write one of the aspects of prayer. Punch holes in the top corners and string some yarn through them so they can hang their poster up at home.

The idea is that children and their family can write out prayers and put them in the envelopes. Writing out prayers, even simple prayers helps us to focus and think about things like praise, repentance, what we are asking for and yielding to what God is asking us to do.

Dawn Farris is the Director of Children’s Ministries at New Testament Christian Church, Keokuk, IA. You can find out more about her at her blog http://www.whosthefarris.com or follow her on twitter @whosthefarris

The Three Rule Template

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Good thoughts from Andy Partington today–whether it’s in your ministry, your home and your frienships, these are worth considering and applying.

Rules are good. God gave them to us. Not to punish us but to give us a great life to be lived for Him.
So why do we have such a problem presenting them to our children?
Have you ever presented your rules only to find little Mitchell with his hand raised poised to ask “why”?
Did you have trouble answering him?

Here are three easy guide steps to give you a surefire one, two, three, punch rule system that is sure to catch on with your kids, be loved by your workers, and take away stress from your behavior management system.
Let’s take a look.

1. Honor God: This rule is all about our relationship with God. It gets us thinking about why God put us together in the first place and what behaviors would He like best in this situation. The ways we can honor God might be, not to talk unless spoken to, not to leave your seat, or just to simply listen.

2. Honor your neighbor: This rule focuses on how we relate to the people around us. I love rule number 2, and here’s why. Every group has a “bell cow”, the one that makes the most noise and leads the others to wherever the bell cow leads. Once the bell cow gets rule two, he can be a driving force for good.

3. Have an attitude of gratitude: The final rule checks our motivation and attitudes. Whatever may happen, kids need to know that we can have fun during almost anything. If they’ve heard the story before, if they don’t get picked for the game, etc.

These rules can have your personality. There can even be more than three. But these three templates can serve as a general guide for setting up your own kids ministry rules. Do you have any to add or ways to creatively embellish the three rule template?

Andy Partington is the Minister to Preschoolers and Children at First Baptist Minden, Louisiana. You can find out more about him at http://www.andypartingtonblog.com

3 Things Every Boy Needs To Hear

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In the coming weeks, I will be sharing some blogspace with two friends of mine in the children’s ministry world. Today’s post is from Andy Partington, children’s pastor in Louisiana.

A lot of time has been spent in my ministry on recruiting men, fathers especially, to volunteer with children’s ministry. Our church has been blessed with a great group of guys who work the nursery, pass out snacks, go on camping trips, drive vans, and lead worship for our kids. It’s a great privilege to see men and women serve alongside each other to reach boys and girls for Christ.

But there is another reason I have for bringing men into our ministry to children. In the community around us and all over the country it seems there is an absence of fathers. A boy may grow up in a two parent household, but the true paternal role is rarely ever seen. Boys have a list of essential needs that only a father or male role model can supply. We need to make sure that they hear:

“I love you”
It’s a basic human need to be loved. We were created to love and be loved by God. Despite this fact, it can sometimes be a huge hurdle as a man to express love to your sons and an even larger one to the boys that aren’t a part of your household. Yet, the need is still there. Find ways to say it, to show it in the way you live, to be an example of love to even the greatest discipline problems that you face. It will make such a difference and you will begin to see trust form in the eyes of the young men that you serve.

“I’m proud of you”Often times, it’s easy for the men in children’s Sunday school classes to become the “enforcer of rules” and the major disciplinarian in the class. This is absolutely fine, but we miss out on an opportunity to serve and show Christ-like love by not telling kids the good things that they’re doing. Point out when boys are well behaved. Take time to mention how good they did during the relay or scripture memory game. Give praise when praise is due. All too often, our boys don’t get the praise they deserve from dads and men in ministry.

“You’re good.”
This is a little different than “I’m proud of you”. I think everyone can benefit from knowing that we have the potential to be virtuous. The statement “You’re good” transcends pride and acknowledges that a boy can have and does have value in your eyes. I’ve seen this simple phrase melt the hearts of the most hardened elementary bullies.

I hope that this list of things that boys need is helpful to you. It’s certainly not exhaustive. Can you think of other ways to reach out and touch the lives of the young men in your church or community? Maybe there are some things that you felt you didn’t have that you needed growing up? Maybe there was a memorable moment in your development that you can look back on and bring to the table as you minister to your sons and the boys under your care.

Andy Partington is the Minister to Preschoolers and Children at First Baptist Minden, Louisiana. You can find out more about him at andypartingtonblog.com

Thanks for the Memories–Mama Mia Monday

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I spent last week teaching at our local church camp. It was a great week! Teaching God’s Word is one of my all time favorite things to do, and teaching it at camp is like the icing on the cake of Bible teaching goodness.

While talking with some campers, they asked me how long I had been coming to camp, and although I wasn’t quite sure exactly how long it had ,I did remember one of my first times teaching was at a week of camp I went to when our son, Connor, who is now 26 was in the 7th grade.

“Woah! That’s a long time ago.”

“Thanks, campers.”

What made it especially cool though was that Connor was our missionary for the week. He now serves in Russia as an English and Bible teacher, and I am so thankful for the memories that we have made and are continuing to make as we have these precious opportunities to serve God together even though we are miles apart.

I told them how we used to teach upstairs above our slightly dilapidated bath domes and in shelter houses scattered around the camp. I recounted how I had taught in one of the shelters near our old outdoor chapel (before we got air conditioning in a retreat center) and had written the key points to my lesson in chalk in the beams of the shelter house. And I told them how the last time I checked (a couple of years ago) the words were still there.

So, of course, we took a quick adventure to see if anyone had yet dared to erase the “immortal” words of the summer of 2001, and alas they had not–the words were still there. The picture above is reinforced the heart of lessons on being servants of God.

That summer as I taught those lessons Connor was a camper, and he and I never told anyone that we were related. Oh a few people knew, but as I told stories of my sons and some of our teachable moments, the spotlight stayed off Connor and on God and His Word. At the end of the week, we had the “big reveal” and as I told the campers that my son was actually at camp as a camper, they wouldn’t believe it and we had a great laugh and made a great memory.

In the years since, both my boys and I have spent quite a few summers together at camp. Through those times of serving together, we grew as family, we grew in our faith and we lived out the words of the shelter house as we became servants of God. And we made memories. Lots of them.

Mama Mia! Lots of memories. Memories of rap songs, baptisms, a guy named Pierre, mildew in the camp, catching snakes, heat stroke, “keep away from the water balloons!” going back to the beginning and so much more. Oh so much more.

So Mamas, let me encourage you today that a great way to make lasting memories with your children is to serve with them–side by side. Find a project, go on a mission trip, serve at a camp. . . .let God grow you closer and bind your hearts together as you serve Him together.

Mama Mia! I’m thankful for the memories!

Be Strong and Do The Work–Dadderday

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Wow! I can’t believe how long it has been since I’ve had/made the time to blog. Thoughts are continually swirling in my head, but the tyranny of the urgent often takes over before I get them into print. I think that’s how it is in parenting sometimes. Little things keep popping up that keep us from other things that really need to get done.

Don’t misunderstand me. I’m not in any way saying that writing down some thoughts in a blog is equivalent to the task of parenting children. Yet the principle still holds true that we often let things that seem bigger trump things that seem smaller, and as my small group and I are discovering this summer, the small things often are the big things, we just don’t always realize it.

So Dads, (and the moms who read blogs for dads!) today I want to give you a small reminder of the importance of parenting your children and “doing the work” that needs to be done. It comes from a couple of small verses of Scripture tucked away inside of the book of I Chronicles–yeah, I know, it’s not the normal source of our Bible verse  of the day–but it should be! Anyway, here’s what one dad said to his son:

Any you, my son, acknowledge the God of your father, and serve Him with a wholehearted devotion and with a willing mind, for the LORD searches every heart and understands every motive behind the thoughts. If you seek Him, He will be found by you; but if you forsake Him, He will reject you forever. Consider now, for the LORD has chosen you to build a temple as a sanctuary. Be strong and do the work.”  I Chronicles 28:9-10

And then he continues a few verses later with:

“Be strong and courageous, and do the work. Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the LORD God, my God, is with you. He will not fail you or forsake you.” I Chronicles 28:20

David was talking to Solomon when he was about to become king about building the permanent temple which would include the place where God would reside. As believers, we are now the place where God resides, and the task of training up our children to know the Lord, follow Him, and to live as His dwelling place can be a daunting task.

But don’t be discouraged. God will not fail you. He will not leave you. You’ve got the this.  Simply remember the words of David and acknowledge God, serve Him with a whole heart and a willing mind; seek Him; be strong and courageous and do the work. And have a great Dadderday doing it!!

Use Your Words. . . Tiny Tot Tuesday

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“Use your words.”

This is a phrase I often hear moms use with their children. As young children learn to speak, it’s often hard for them to find the right words from their limited vocabulary, and so they can easily get frustrated. With frustration, comes whining, crying and yes, even sometimes the occasional temper tantrum–from both child and parent! Learning to use our words helps communicate our thoughts and our heart, and although some might say love needs to be shown rather than said, I suppose I’ve always been a believer that it’s a combination of both.

Since it’s February and almost Valentine’s Day I’ve been thinking about love. When it comes to teaching our children about love, I mean really teaching them about love, using our words can be a huge asset.

This month in our children’s department at church we are teaching our children I Corinthians 13:4-8 which says,

“Love is patient; love is kind.
It does not envy, it does not boast.
It is not proud. It isn’t rude.
It’s not self seeking. It is not easily angered.
It keeps no record of wrongs.
Love does not delight in evil, but rejoices with truth.
It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, and always perseveres.
Love never fails.”

Using this Scripture as a model, we can begin to use our words to teach our children about love.

For example:
1) You are going to the grocery store. You know there is a great probability that you will have to wait in line to check out and they/you will begin to get impatient, angry, you may want to say something that is just a little rude or you may find yourself a little jealous of the line next to you that is going a little faster.

You can begin to use your words before you ever enter the store, and so you can say, “Before we go into the store, let’s choose to show love. We are going to be patient if our line is slow. Let’s think of something kind we can say to the worker, because love is kind.”

2) Starting to get angry? (Not at me, at our imaginary trip to the store!) You can simply say, “Let’s look around what do we have to be thankful for. We don’t want to start getting angry, because love is not easily angered.” Then refocus that energy by counting candy bars or playing thumb wars or saying a little prayer for the people around you and yourselves.

3) When your child tells the truth about something–and not just when they have been in trouble–Rejoice!! Tell them you are rejoicing. Tell them why you are rejoicing. Because love rejoices with the truth, and truth is good and you want to honor that.

4) Your children are bickering (yes it will still happen) and tattling about current or past offenses. Have your child make a list of positive things about the person they are upset with to replace their “record of wrongs” list. Use your words to remind them that “love does not keep a record of wrongs.”

I’m sure you get the idea. There are so many ways that we can speak love into our children’s lives as it relates to how they treat others. Sometimes it just comes down to staying intentional and remembering to make the most of those teaching able moments.

Because aren’t you thankful that God is patient with us? I am so thankful that He is not easily angered and keeps no record of our wrongs. He is not a God who delights in evil, but rather He rejoices with the truth, and He protects us, is kind to us and He will endure beyond forever.

These are great words to use with our tiny tots.

Disclaimer–I was going to share some fun Valentine craft for you to do with your children, but decided to “use my words” instead. For great Valentine craft ideas, feel welcome to kindly check out Pinterest! I’m sure you’ll find something you love!

Why I Will No Longer Accept Your Child’s Facebook Friend Request–Mama Mia Monday

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Got another one–

Last week I received another facebook friend request from a child I know, and I just can’t click confirm.

I will admit I have accepted requests in the past. I talked with some friends about it, read some articles and finally relented with the belief that since their parents were allowing it, it was still a chance for me to connect with them and even to keep up with what’s going on in their lives.

But I was wrong.

Because in doing so, I affirmed to them that it’s okay to lie, that it’s okay to lie with your parents’ permission, and that I, as their children’s ministry leader, think a little lying must be okay.

Yet, that’s not what I believe at all.

I’ve been a part in putting them in danger of identity theft, bullying (from either side), child predators, negative self image (both physical and mental) and entrance to an adult world they weren’t meant to join until they were, well, adults.

Yet, I could never imagine doing that intentionally.

Children are not yet capable of fully understanding the consequences to some of their actions or the concept of marketing. Facebook is designed to target those who sign up for it. So when a child registers with a false age beyond their years, they are now targeted with ads for someone “beyond their years.” This includes sites about drinking, gambling, meeting singles and more.

In the United States it is illegal to collect information on people under the age of thirteen–one of the reasons facebook doesn’t allow children under the age of thirteen to have an account. I find it ironic how often we get upset when the government lies or acts unethically, yet now we are enabling that process. In fact, we have become the very thing we say we abhor.

And why?

I’m not sure. Some of the reasons I hear are so that our children can have friends, have fun or be like everyone else. Some parents have admitted they just didn’t want to tell their children, “No.” They didn’t want the fight. Others have said they felt like the lie wasn’t really a big thing because they are monitoring what their kids are doing on their pages.

We, as the adults in their lives, are supposed to help our kids navigate the waters of character and integrity. We are supposed to model for them virtues like truth, honesty, patience and self control. These underage users–Wow! That’s a startling term considering the addictive nature of social media– aren’t quite yet capable to understand the whole “when it’s okay to lie and when it’s not okay to lie” thing isn’t really supposed to be a thing. Apparently we, as adults, aren’t either.

Mama Mia!

**In 2011, ABC news reported that it was estimated that almost 7.5 million facebook accounts were used by underage children who were using facebook with their parents’ permission. http://abcnews.go.com/Technology/underage-facebook-members-75-million-users-age-13/story?id=13565619